Acts 24:1
Five days later, the high priest Ananias came down with some elders and a lawyer named Tertullus, who presented to the governor their case against Paul.
Paul Before Felix and DrusillaGrenville KleiserActs 24:1
Eloquence PervertedSt. AugustineActs 24:1-9
Eloquence True and FalseJ. Dick, D. D.Acts 24:1-9
Lawyers Without a Perception of JusticeActs 24:1-9
Orators and PreachersR. Besser, D. D.Acts 24:1-9
Paul and Tertullus: or False Eloquence and TrueK. Gerok.Acts 24:1-9
Paul Before FelixD. Thomas, D. D.Acts 24:1-9
Paul MisunderstoodJ. Parker, D. D.Acts 24:1-9
Sanguinary OratorsScientific IllustrationsActs 24:1-9
The Governor's CourtR.A. Redford Acts 24:1-9
The Opening Statement of a Prosecuting, CounselActs 24:1-9
The Speech of TertullusC. Chapman, M. A.Acts 24:1-9
Malice, Innocence, and PowerW. Clarkson Acts 24:1-23, 26, 27
We have illustrated here -


1. Persistent hatred. It was a long journey to Caesarea, and it was a most humiliating thing, to which they were utterly averse, for the high priest and the elders to appear before the Roman judge to get their countrymen into their own power; nevertheless the undying hatred, the animosity which did not diminish by time carried them through their distasteful work.

2. Disgusting flattery (vers. 2, 3).

3. Gross misrepresentation (ver. 5). Paul had caused no little dissension and conflict among his fellow-countrymen, but it was simple perversion of the truth to call him a "pestilent fellow," etc.

4. Offensive characterization (ver. 5). Paul was "a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes;" but malice put his position into the most offensive form it could command.

5. Downright falsehood (ver. 6). He had not "gone about to profane the temple." These various falsities came from the lips of Tertullus, but they were owned and adopted by the Jews (ver. 9). To such baseness malice will stoop to compass its ends; to such iniquity professed piety will condescend when inflamed by the unholy heats of bigotry.


1. Courtesy (ver. 10). We may not flatter, but we must be courteous and conciliatory (1 Peter 3:8; 1 Samuel 25:23-33).

2. Straightforward statement (vers. 11, 14-17). There is no better way by which to prove our integrity than telling the whole truth from beginning to end, with perfect frankness.

3. Fearless denial (vers. 12, 13, 18). We should solemnly deny, in calm and dignified language, that which is falsely alleged against us; in quietness and composure rather than in vehemence and loud protestation, is our strength.

4. Righteous challenge (vers. 19, 20). We may do well to face our accusers with bold and righteous challenge (John 8:46).


(1) gave an unrighteous decision, for the case had broken down, and Paul should have been released,

(2) hankered after a bribe (ver. 26); was willing to sell justice for money;

(3) left his position with an act of selfish injustice (ver. 27). He presents a pitiful picture both as a public administrator and as a private individual. How little to be envied are those who climb to high stations! How contemptible is power when it is perverted to mean and selfish ends! How admirable, how enviable in comparison, is innocence in insignificance or even in bonds! - C.

And after five days Ananias the high priest descended...with a certain orator named Tertullus.
1. From his Roman name we judge that Tertullus was a Roman barrister of signal abilities, and perhaps of great reputation. The Jews, probably, for the most part being ignorant of Roman law, employed Roman lawyers to represent them in the courts of justice.

2. The charge is threefold.(1) Sedition. "A mover of sedition," literally, "a pestilence, or a pest." Demosthenes and Cicero speak of different persons as the pest of the Republic, the State, the Empire. All the commotions which Paul's enemies created were laid to his charge. To the Romans no crime was more heinous than that of sedition, for they seemed afraid that their vast empire might in some part give way.(2) Heresy. "A ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes." This charge has the merit of truth.(3) Sacrilege (ver. 6). This was a foul calumny. After these charges this clever but unprincipled advocate does two things:

(a)Implies that the Sanhedrin would have judged Paul righteously if Lysias had not interposed.

(b)He gets the Jews to assent to all he had stated.

3. This piece of history presents to us a picture of a corrupt barrister. We see him doing things which disgrace his profession.

I. VENALLY ADOPTING A BAD CAUSE. What was his motive? Love of right — chivalry? No, money. He sold his services to the cause —

1. Of the strong against the weak.

2. Of the wrong against the right. The English courts exhibit something analogous to this sometimes. There are eminent members of the bar, some of whom are wonderfully pious in public meetings, whose services in a bad cause can be easily secured by a handsome fee.

II. WICKEDLY ADVOCATING A BAD CAUSE. In his advocacy we discover —

1. Base flattery (vers. 2, 3).

2. Flagrant falsehood. He lays, as we have seen, three false charges against him.

3. Suppressed truth. He said nothing about the conspiracy (Acts 23:14, 15). The man who suppresses a truth when its declaration is demanded by the nature of the case is guilty of falsehood, is a deceiver.

(D. Thomas, D. D.)

The other day Paul was mistaken for "that Egyptian, which before these days made an uproar," etc. Today a hired orator describes Paul as "a pestilent fellow," etc. Does this tally with what you know about him?

1. There is no cause too bad not to hire an advocate to represent it. This Tertullus was the genius of abuse; the worse the cause the glibber his tongue. He lives today, and takes the same silver for his flippant eloquence.

2. How possible it is utterly to misconceive a great character! There is a key to every character, and if you do not get the one you never can understand the other. The difficulty of the man of one idea is to understand any other man who has two. Some of us are so easy to understand, simply because there is so little to be comprehended. No character was so much misunderstood as Jesus Christ's; and He said, "If they have called the Master of the house Beelzebub, how much more shall they call them of His household!"

3. Here, too, is the possibility of excluding from the mind every thought characterised by breadth and charity. It does not occur to the paid pleader to say, "This man is insane, romantic, has a craze about a theory too lofty or immaterial for the present state of things." Sometimes a charitable spirit will take some such view. But Tertullus knew that he was talking to a man who could only understand coarse epithets, for he himself, though a judge in those times, was the basest of his tribe. Yet, without viciousness, there may be great narrowness. You will contract that narrowness if you do not sometimes come out of your little village into great London. I am not wishful to make every man into a Tertullus who opposes apostolic life and thought. It is possible honestly to oppose even Paul, but the honesty itself is an expression of mental contractedness. What is perfectly right to the eye within given points may be astronomically wrong when the whole occasion is taken in. So men may be parochially right and imperially wrong; men may be perfectly orthodox within the limits of a creed and unpardonably heterodox within the compass of a faith.

4. How wonderful it is that even Tertullus is obliged to compliment the man whom he was paid to abuse!(1) He was a pestilent fellow. There was nothing negative about Paul, and Tertullus confirms that view. Paul was not a quiet character; wherever he was he was astir. According to Tertullus, Paul was also "a mover of sedition, etc., among all the Jews throughout the world" — a sentence intended to touch the ear of the Roman judge. Felix might well listen when the man before him was accused of being an insurrectionist. That he was "a mower of sedition" in the sense implied by Tertullus was not true, but Paul was the prince of revolutionists. Every Christian is a revolutionist. Christianity tears up the foundations, and, after this, begins to build for eternity.(3) Paul was "a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes." So the prisoner is not made into a little man even by the paid accuser. Paul never could be held in contempt. Put him where you will, he becomes the principal man in that company. A rich banker said, when someone asked him questions regarding his fortune, "I cannot help it; if I were tonight stripped and turned into the streets of Copenhagen, I would be as rich in ten years as I am now — I cannot help it." Paul could not help being the first man of every company.

5. What is the inevitable issue of all narrow-mindedness. Falsehood (ver. 6). Imagine Tertullus being excited regarding the purity of the temple! How suddenly some men become pious! What a genius is hypocrisy! You cannot misrepresent the people in the temple and yet be concerned honestly for the temple itself. Conclusion: The incident would hardly be worth dwelling upon were it confined to its own four corners, but it is a typical instance repeated continually in our day. The good develops the bad ever. Let a George Fox arise, and how will he be characterised, except as "a pestilent fellow," "a mover of sedition," and "a ringleader of a sect"? Let a John Wesley arise, or a George Whitefield, a John Bunyan, or a John Nelson; read the early annals of English Christianity and evangelism; read the history of the early Methodist preachers, and you will find that every age that has brought a Paul has brought along with him a Tertullus. Thank God! nothing but epithets can be hurled against Christianity, yet Christianity stands up today queenly, pure, stainless — every stone thrown at her lying at her feet.

(J. Parker, D. D.)

The statement of Tertullus was supposed to convey to the judge an impartial description of the prisoner, and a just outline of his offence. Anyone not acquainted with Paul would conclude that he was a sort of Barabbas. And if one had remonstrated with the eloquent lawyer he, with a bland smile rippling over his countenance, would have justified himself by repeating the stereotyped phrase, "Sir, I have spoken according to the instructions given me in my brief."


1. In the name there lies concealed a pain-inflicting sting. What a sting was in the name "Nazarenes!"

2. And such names are generally published and circulated by persons who might be expected to act differently — Priests, Scribes, Pharisees and religious persons. And today it is not from atheists, but from persons nominally religious, that Christians receive the cruellest thrusts of scorn.

II. REMINDS US THAT DIFFERENT INTERPRETATIONS MAY BE GIVEN OF THE WORK DONE BY ONE MAN. Here Paul was a walking pest, a scatterer of contagious evil; elsewhere men could not find words strong enough to express the grateful joy they felt as they witnessed the apostle's work. Thus is it today.

III. STARTS THE REFLECTION THAT THE POSITION AND PURSUITS OF A MAN MAY BE THE OPPOSITE AT ONE PERIOD OF LIFE FROM WHAT THEY HAVE BEEN AT ANOTHER. Twenty-five years before Paul was the ringleader of the opposition raised by priests and Scribes against the sect of the Nazarenes. Such a change is not of rare occurrence now.

IV. GAVE INDIRECT TESTIMONY TO THE THOROUGHNESS OF THE LIFE AND WORK OF THE APOSTLE. As Paul heard himself spoken of as being "a pestilent fellow," etc., a moment's reflection would help him to gather the honey of consolation from the lawyer's rhetoric. All that was said against Paul testified to his zeal and influence as a Christian worker. Had he been an idler the enemies of the Cross would not have thought it necessary to haul him to a bar of justice. If a man finds the world fraternising with him, he may suspect that he is not so loyally zealous in Christ's cause as he should be; but if some worldly Tertullus storms at him he may console himself that his service is a work which incenses a sin-loving world.

V. SUGGESTS THAT SECTARIAN ZEAL MAY BLIND MEN TO THEIR TRUE AND BEST INTEREST. The priests could not conceive it possible that Paul might be right, and they, after all, might be wrong. In fact, they would rather see Paul put to death than have their useless creed and ritual superseded by a gospel which would bring to light life and immortality. The same spirit reigns rampantly among the bigots who today ask, "Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth?"

(C. Chapman, M. A.)

1. False eloquence is flattering: it speaks to please the hearers (ver. 3). True eloquence does not flatter: it addresses the heart and conscience.

2. False eloquence is hypocritical: it dwells only on the lips; it is honey in the mouth and gall in the heart (vers. 5, 6). True eloquence does not dissimulate: it proceeds from the heart and speaks as it feels (vers. 10, 14-16).

3. False eloquence is deceitful: it makes black white and white black (vers. 5, 6). True eloquence does not lie: it denies only what is false (ver. 13), but confesses what is true (vers. 14, 15), and makes the matter speak instead of the words (vers. 16-20).

(K. Gerok.)

Eloquence, considered as the power of giving a luminous and impressive statement of truth; of marshalling our arguments in distinct and forceable order; of portraying virtue in all its charms, and vice in all its deformity; of defending the innocent against oppression and calumny, and dragging forth the wicked to execration and punishment; eloquence employed in these important offices, and uniting with the clear deductions of reason and experience, all the energies of language, and all the ornaments of an ardent and cultivated imagination, is undoubtedly one of the noblest and most enviable talents which a mortal can possess. It may uphold the religion and morals of a nation; it may save a sinking state from ruin. But when it aims at exciting the passions, without enlightening the mind; when, with its false colouring, it makes the worse appear the better cause; when it corrupts the imagination and undermines the principles of morality; when, like a base prostitute, it offers itself to every person who demands its assistance; when it flatters where it should reprove, and condemns what it ought to applaud and defend; it is more noxious than the pestilence which infects the air that we breathe, or than the lightning which blinds us with its glare and over. whelms us with its irresistible force.

(J. Dick, D. D.)

Eloquence is the gift of God; but eloquence in a bad man is poison in a golden cup.

(St. Augustine.)

God's preachers are not orators of acquired words, but witnesses of revealed facts.

(R. Besser, D. D.)

Scientific Illustrations.
We have a class of speakers in this country who are silent on all great social and cosmopolitan topics, but make themselves heard and felt the moment any matter of warlike fascination comes to the surface. All other questions float down the stream of public opinion without causing them even to indicate their existence. They remind one of those animals noted for their bloodthirstiness in the warm regions of Africa — the caribitos (Serrasalmo). Their haunts are at the bottom of rivers, but a few drops of blood suffice to bring them by thousands to the surface; and Humboldt himself mentions that in some part of the Apure, where the water was perfectly clear and no fish were visible, he could in a few minutes bring together a cloud of caribitos by casting in some bits of flesh. With equal ease we can collect all our war orators if we only give them one sanguinary pretext.

(Scientific Illustrations.)

Lawyers generally know too much of law to have a very clear perception of justice, just as divines are often too deeply read in theology to appreciate the full grandeur and the proper tendencies of religion. Losing the abstract in the concrete, the comprehensive in the technical, the principal in its accessories, both are in the predicament of the rustic who could not see London for the houses.

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